FinCon13 and FinCon14

Another outstanding conference. AGAIN.

Let me cut to the summary: review the FinCon13 agenda to decide whether it would have suited your needs, and please contact me if you have a question about a specific event. But if you really wish you’d been able to attend, it’s not too late! Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on transportation and lodging, you can see everything in the comfort of your own broadband with a FinCon13 virtual pass for $79. It gives you HD-quality video of all the sessions plus the MP3s and slides. You’ll find several ideas in there worth far more than $79.

What you can’t duplicate online is the experience of hanging out in person with over 500 bloggers who are passionate about your interests. I chatted with small groups including bloggers like Pat Flynn, Liz Weston, Rick Ferri, Paula Pant, Derek Halpern, and Jim Wang— people who have achieved financial independence from writing about their knowledge, their experiences, and their passions. (They’re also enjoying themselves too much to stop.) They’re real humans who want to learn about you and your blog. At the same time I chatted with bloggers who are just starting out with the same blogging questions that I had three years ago, and I met several more bloggers who are publicly sharing their progress on paying off over $100K in debt.

I wish my daughter could have listened to Jean Chatzky’s keynote. However trailblazers like Jean have broken through barriers in society and careers that my daughter could never imagine were even allowed to exist, so she’d find it hard to appreciate all the fuss over Jean’s achievements. In a nutshell, Jean’s accomplishments all came from failing over and over… until she succeeded. (My daughter keenly appreciates that tactic.) But while Jean could have chosen to attend FinCon with a security detail (or at least an entourage), she was right there in the crowds with the rest of us. She even sat at the “Ask Me Anything” table for over 30 minutes– with a line of women (plus a few guys) that stretched out into the hallway.

Pat Flynn gave his second FinCon keynote– this time about making a good first impression. He drove that point home during the MC’s introduction by jogging through the audience, scampering up the stage stairs, and immediately falling flat on his face. It turned out to be a pratfall to get our attention, but when you learn a little about Pat from his website then you’d also find it totally believable. Pat shows us all how to turn our mistakes (and our fears of making them) into opportunities.

For you military servicemembers, veterans, and military families: over a dozen of us attended FinCon13. At FinCon14 we’re going to start our own meetups and presentations. Maybe one of us will give a talk on a military topic, or we’ll hold a panel discussion on “Marketing to the Military“. But we’ll also gather together with plenty of time to chat among ourselves, perhaps with food and a frosty beverage or two.

Here’s what you can expect to get out of FinCon14:

    • A bigger audience. The FinCon Facebook group promotes each other’s posts and tips. We add our blogs (and our social media accounts) to each other’s lists, and we collaborate on FinCon promotions. My Twitter numbers have been flat for months but my account gained 10% more followers in the last two weeks. My blog is still experiencing the “FinCon effect” of new readers, and traffic is up 25% this week– yet this is my first post of the week! Last Monday so many new readers checked (as they were leaving St. Louis for home?) that the day broke into the site’s the top five. October 2013 is going to be the blog’s most traffic ever. The new readers are “sticky” ones who will subscribe to the content and maybe even (hint, hint) click on a book link or two.
    • Great networking for you and your projects. I handed out over 75 business cards, some of them to people who have never known anyone in the American military or aren’t even U.S. citizens. Sure, I got asked a lot of “Um, what do you DO all day?!?“, but more perceptive bloggers asked “What are you working on now?“, followed almost immediately by “How can I help?
    • Building your brand. Readers think I’m joking about being a balding ponytailed middle-aged Hawaii surf geezer. Yet when I showed up at FinCon wearing a different aloha shirt every day, people immediately recognized me and came over to chat. (Only one guy was skeptical of my military background, but luckily I had my ID card with me.) Being myself turned out to be the best icebreaker.
    • More content. While I was “at FinCon” I also did an interview for an Investor’s Business Daily column (thanks for passing on the tip, Barb!) and volunteered for (other blogger’s) podcasts. I discussed posts with representatives from PenFed, Fidelity, and the indexed annuity business. I’m writing two guest posts (Justin, I’m working on yours next!). I spent more time with the USAA team, and I’ve signed up for a few more guest posts on USAA’s community blogs. (Search for keyword “Nordman”.) Ironically I’m spending more time writing for other people than I’m spending on, and I still have content left over.
    • Ideas: lots of ideas. We bloggers are a pretty creative bunch (just read our posts!) and when we get together that creativity is exponentially amplified. 30 minutes of an eBook discussion showed me how to avoid literally dozens of hours of dreaded drudgery. 30 minutes at a Pinterest discussion showed me how to use Pinterest for my own goals, not just as part of yet another social-media effort. But the clearest example of our creativity lies in our business cards. (Yes, we still trade second-millennium bits of pasteboard.) The runaway winner of that unofficial competition is Jason Steele, whose calling card is… a credit card. You’ll understand when you click that link to his website, but it’s the best brand-building technique I’ve ever seen– and it made me want to pick his brain for more! (I’m still trying to find a card reader to see whether he loaded the magnetic stripe with data.) Since I was clearly out of my league in this competition, I chose the other end of the bell curve and became known as “that guy with the cards he printed on the Avery stock from a garage sale for $1.50“. But I’ve shamelessly plagiarized the great ideas that others use on their cards.
    • Shiny new blogger tools. The FinCon sponsors offered dozens of cool websites, products, and services. Each presentation also shared resources that I need to try. I’ve always been a little nervous about using freelancers and virtual assistants, but more experienced bloggers have marked the paths and referred me to the people who have helped them succeed. Mahalo nui loa hana hou to Todd Tresidder and Mike Piper for their eBook tips.
    • Fun. In four days I made new friends, took the tram to the top of the St. Louis Arch, strolled a beautiful park along the Mississippi River, ate a dozen great meals, drank a couple of gallons of new coffee brews, and experienced many different cultures. Of course I also nearly froze to death whenever I ventured outside the hotel (Hawaii residents don’t “do” temperatures in the 40s) and the Mississippi is totally unsuitable for stand-up paddleboarding.

If you’re a newer blogger, then you can get ready for FinCon14 right now. Add the FinCon blog to your RSS feed or subscribe to their e-mails. Put next October on your calendar now. Sign up for Bloggers Helping Bloggers, and if you’re military then please tell Jana so that she can pair you with me. Consider adding “Blogger Boot Camp” to your plans for next year’s FinCon. Plan your budget to buy your FinCon pass next February or March when it goes on sale for 48 hours. Send me your questions, and if I don’t know the answers then I can seek the wisdom of 499 other collaborators.

A few random thoughts:

    • Need a really cheap, lightweight travel laptop that actually fits on your lap? Apple just introduced a new iPad model, which means the price of used iPad2s will drop like a rock. Buy one from Craigslist and pair it with a Logitech Bluetooth iPad keyboard from I put these two together a year ago (twice!) for $325-$375, and today you can probably do it for just over $250. I saw several of them at FinCon. A “low end” iPad2 with just 16GB of memory and only WiFi (no 3G) still has plenty of horsepower for writing blog posts, answering e-mail, managing a website, taking photos, reading eBooks, and watching a movie. Logitech’s keyboard fits my XXL hands and both pieces form a neat clamshell (with a magnetic hinge) that fits easily in a backpack or a purse. Not only have I ditched my old ThinkPad– my desktop PC and my local public library are seeing less use too.
    • FinCon is much cheaper when you use the group’s Google Docs to network for ridesharing and hotel roommates. You’ll still spend a few hundred bucks, but you’ll reap the rewards within the year.

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Related articles:
FINCON12 after-action report
FinCon13, Ellie Kay video, new podcast, and TSP & IRA withdrawals for Reservists
Shutdown solutions, surveys, eBooks, podcasts, and FinCon13

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About the Author Doug Nordman

I retired in 2002 after 20 years in the Navy's submarine force. I wrote "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" to share the stories of over 50 other financially independent servicemembers and veterans.

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